For Julia Clukey the task is very simple: Finish in the top five in today’s World Cup women’s luge race and earn a berth in the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics.
Anything less, she could be in for a scramble for the final spot on the U.S. women’s team.
“Three singles women are going,” said Sandy Caligiore, a media/public relations representative for USA Luge. “We just don’t know who yet.”
Erin Hamlin secured an Olympic berth with a fifth-place finish at last week’s World Cup event on the 2010 Olympic track in Whistler, British Columbia. Clukey, an Augusta native and Cony High School graduate, is competing with Kate Hanson and Summer Britcher for the other two spots.
Clukey qualified for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where she finished 17th, and was coming off her best season, when she had two second-place finishes and was ranked sixth in the world.
But the 2013-14 season has not started well for her. Clukey, 28, has finished 19th, 12th, 13th and 10th in the first four World Cup events.
The 10th-place finish came last week when she turned in an aggregate time of 1:14:001 at Whistler. Hamlin, the top American finisher, was fifth in 1:13:803.
Hanson also satisfied a selection criteria in last week’s race with her second Top 9 finish of the season (she was sixth overall), but she could still be bumped by either Clukey or Britcher.
“It’s an interesting selection process,” said Caligiore. “There are different tiers of qualification.”
The A tier is a top 5 finish, which guarantees an Olympic berth. That would be Hamlin.
The B tier is two top 9 finishes, though that doesn’t guarantee a berth.
The C tier is one finish in the top 9 and two in the top 12.
Clukey has two top 12 finishes. Hanson has two top 9s. Britcher has one top 9.
Both Clukey and Britcher could move ahead of Hanson with strong races today.
That the race is being run at Park City, Utah, site of the 2002 Olympics, could be a plus for Clukey. She had a fifth-place finish there in the 2010-11 season.
“It’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility,” said Caligiore.
But if neither Clukey nor Britcher satisfy the selection criteria today (allowing Hanson to earn a berth), there could be a race-off on Saturday to determine the final women’s luge berth.
That race-off would likely include Emily Sweeney, who grew up in Falmouth but now lives in Connecticut. Sweeney won the 2013 junior world championships on the Park City track last year.
The race begins at 1:30 p.m. today and can be seen live at www.wiziwig.tv.
The U.S. luge Winter Olympic team will be announced at 8 p.m. Saturday and can be seen at www.usaluge.org.
Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6433 or at:firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: MikeLowePPH